Friday, March 30, 2012

Another Family's Initial Steps

In this blog, I try to focus on my family's gaming adventures and avoid my "professional" involvement with gaming as a teacher / teacher-librarian. However, this brief story relates to at-home play, so I thought it was worth repeating.

I gave a workshop in Brampton on Tuesday to a group of teacher-librarians. The topic was on wikis and one of the examples I gave was our multi-school Minecraft meeting place. I gushed a bit about how wonderful Minecraft is and how fun it is to play for me and the kids. During the second half of my workshop, I give time for participants to direct their learning, allowing them choice. Many of them explored my repository of lessons and other resources. As I wandered around, chatting and offering any assistance, I had a great conversation with "A". She is a teacher-librarian with two children of her own (in SK and grade 3). She was excited to see references to Webkinz on my site. Her children have accounts, with about 3 pets a piece logged on - I didn't tell her how many pets we have on our family Webkinz account because it's a little scary! She admired how adept her children were at navigating the online world and saw how her children were using math and language skills while playing. For instance, her son described how he wanted to buy a bathtub and he examined his Kinzcash balance, compared prices for the blue tub and white tub, and subtracted the cost from his funds to see what he'd have left. He was concerned that the bathtub purchase would significantly lower his savings, so he planned to play more games to earn more money. Financial literacy anyone?

She was a little worried about the online safety component and insisted that he delete anyone from his friends list that he didn't know in real life. I talked a bit about the measures Ganz has taken to make it a "safe place" by eliminating open chat but also briefly mentioned the "critical consumer" piece (because from what I understand, Ganz is an aggressive marketer and not very good about user privacy and their advertisers).

I did make a couple of overt suggestions that I hope she likes. I recommended getting a school Webkinz account and playing with her primary students. The kind of rich discussions, inquiry-based investigations, and open-ended tasks are just as good for her students as for her own children. It won't be the same because it's school, and her school board blocks so I don't know if it's even possible for her. My second recommendation was that she get her own Webkinz account and play with her kids. She agreed that her kids would be delighted to "show Mom the ropes" and be friends with her, exploring this fun new world together. Let's hope it's the start of another family's joint adventures in gaming.

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